At the dragoon brigade headquarters, preparations to sortie were underway.
Contrary to his usual insincerity, the Captain Oldart was issuing orders with a serious face.
Readied for takeoff, the dragons stood in file, the forms of their partner dragoons on their backs a magnificent spectacle.
Close to a hundred had lined up. The scene that unfolded was one that upon which, it wouldn’t be strange if anyone was already convinced if another victory.
“The old empire never learns. Well, I’m sure they have some prospects…”
Oldart groaned, knowing well they were no fools; his vice-captain Alejandro shed a cold sweat as he walked over.
He was followed behind by people who weren’t allowed to be there.
(That Alejandro, he’s as spineless as ever.)
The one following him was a certain Fina, surrounded by demi-human knights. The dragoons around raised a ruckus.
“Oldart, you have a summons from the princess.”
Contrasting Alejandro’s panic, Oldart spread out both hands with a smile.
“Well if it isn’t her highness, the second princess. What brings you to such a sweltering place.”
The flurried haste of the palace. Added to the unreasonable orders, and Aileen’s seemingly suspicious movements—Oldart had an inkling something had happened in the Palace.
He hit upon that Fina coming here must have some sort of meaning.
Fina expressionlessly addressed him.
“I would be very much obliged if you could lend me just a few of your dragoons, Oldart-dono.”
Before Fina’s inability to show expression, Oldart knew this was going to be difficult as he scratched his head.
“Dear me, what could you mean by that? Haven’t you noticed we’re in a bit of a crisis here?”
Fina gave a small not, touching her right hand to her chest.
“Yes, I am aware. Should I say that is precisely why? A moment ago, I was imprisoned by my sister—Aileen.”
Seeing Alejandro make an unpleasant face, Oldart folded his arms.
“So you’ll bring the dragoons into the palace’s mess. Are you sure about that? Our dragoons… it is my humble opinion that their power shall only be exercised in defense.”
If they were dragged in, they would have done something there was no taking back. Even so, Fina wasn’t moved.
No, it didn’t come out on her face, so it was impossible to tell what she was thinking.
“Three dragon riders have sided with Aileen. Did you happen to have three taking separate action? For instance… three who were to remain stationed in the remotest of regions?”
Oldart felt like clicking his tongue. He endured it to make a smile.
(Can’t be part of the main force. So some folks sent off to the outskirts were lured in by promotions…)
“You have my apologies for that one. We’ll have them caught and thrown in the dungeons in no—”
Fina wouldn’t let Oldart finished.
“— The dungeons aren’t kept open for dragoons alone. My sister shall go with them. As my personal request.”
Fina told him her plan. Upon hearing it, Alejandro’s face turned pale, while Oldart formed a stiff smile.
“Is this really the time for a family quarrel?”
Fina’s reply came immediately.
“It’s never too rare among royalty. Additionally, could I ask you to send reinforcements to my mast… Rudel-sama? As inconspicuous of a number as possible. Just a few elites, if you can.”
Oldart had already been considering it.
“Are you fine with just a few?”
“If the numbers are too different, I fear it will be seen through. Both fronts of the empire’s invasion plan likely have the potential to become their main force. We shouldn’t divide our numbers too much. And… I’m sure master will be fine.”
Fina said, established Oldart’s cooperation and left. Oldart looked at the girl’s back as,
“… The hell’s up with master?”
In his head, Rudel had become even more incomprehensible.
After the dragoon brigade had taken flight. From the royal palace, an army of a few tens of thousands passed under the gate of the outer wall on their march.
Fritz set out in magnificent armor, and with so many people leaving the royal palace of the royal capital, it was fare more scarcely populated than usual.
Aileen lowered herself into the throne in the audience chamber.
The knights and nobles around her recommended it.
“You’re a perfect fit, Princess Aileen. No, Queen Aileen.”
The nobles continued lifting her up with their words.
“But the empire sure is foolish.”
“Surely. When there’s no way they can win against a dragon.”
“Even if they manage to take land, the dragons will take it back.”
Their optimism lay in just how powerful the dragon’s really were. As a matter of fact, they had protected the kingdom of Courtois like that for hundreds of years.
Aileen breathed a small sigh.
“It may be fine to reclaim it. But of the empire lays hand on fertile soil, perhaps they’ll calm down and stop instigating wars.”
Hearing that, the surrounding knights and nobles were a little flustered.
“No, Aileen-sama, I would never recommend leaving them be. It’s the empire we’re talking about here, if they get one victory, they’ll prepare to invade again—”
“Then we can simply talk the matter out. We do have vast spans of fertile earth. What have you to complain about?”
Her surroundings sent her troubled faces. But the had decided to lift Aileen up even so. From now on, they could make as many excuses to her as they pleased. So they thought.
In fact, it would surely be possible.
A knight of the royal guard plunged into the audience chamber. The large doors were violently thrown open as he stood, out of breath in a huge panic.
“Princess Fina is—leading the defenders in a rebellion!”
A tension raced across the audience chamber. Aileen stood from her chair, covering her mouth with both hands.
“Fina did… there’s no way…”
The guard knights nearby her issued our orders.
“Suppress it at once. And don’t harm Princess Fina.”
They were the sole two heirs to the royal bloodline, with high utility value. The intent was to quell the rebellion at once, and have someone else take responsibility.
But Fina’s rebellion exceeded their anticipation.
“I-it’s impossible! The number of armed defenders exceeds five hundred. The civilians are joining in to besiege the palace walls!”
As knight and noble alike opened their eyes wide, the vehement sounds of battle came from outside the castle.
“We request reinforcements at—”
As the messenger knight said that, one of the nobles wrung out his voice.
“Calm down. We have the dragoons we called from the—”
Recalling the existence of their trump card, the dragoons, the knights and nobles present regained their composure.
But the knight opened his mouth wide.
“Nay. They have them too… our three dragoons have already been taken in!”
Six dragoon knights had held down the dragoons on Aileen’s side.
Breaching the palace gate, Fina stepped in surrounded by knights of the tiger tribe.
Yet they stood without entering the door to the palace.
“Good on them to anticipate the enemy’s infiltration, but this sure is troublesome.”
Prepared long ago, the door unclear whether it could even move or not was closed. Aileen’s group had locked themselves into a siege, it seemed they intended to endure to the return of their dispatched troops.
It was not the palace of the historic Courtois Kingdom for nothing, its defense couldn’t be dealt with through ordinary means.
The high knight Sophina took command, while in the palace, the defenders continued the fight with the troops of Aileen’s faction.
“Hurry with the siege weapon!”
Aleist’s friends were also taking part, reassembling a siege weapon within the castle walls to use from the inside. But it wasn’t made in the first place to be used indoors.
“Not happening! In the first place, the halls are to narrow to carry it.”
The place was vast enough, but if they wanted to reuse the siege weapon they’d brought, they’d have to downscale it. That would lower its output.
If they took it too far, it might not do anything at all.
“You look exhausted. Should I have a dragon blow it away with breath from the outside?”
When Fina ran her mouth on that, she heard a voice from behind.
“Princess… no, Fina-sama, that would be quite troubling. To burn up the valuable material in the palace, and the many pieces of fine art will surely bring trouble down the line.”
When Fina turned, she made a terribly unpleasant face in her head.
(Dammit, they’re already here.)
There, Luecke’s father, Archduke Halbades led his own troop to make his way to her.
“You’ll be troubled when you take the throne, or perhaps become queen.”
Fina was expressionless to the Archduke… but quite irritated inside, she asked.
“Archduke Halbades. We are in a time of crisis. The fact you have appeared before me with such a statement means…”
The knights around Fina readied their weapon, stepping before Fina and the archduke. Not that Archduke Halbades seemed to mine.
“The Halbades House offers you our assistance. Fret not, with our cooperation, victory is assured. We will see to it that you are queen, be it consort or regnant.”
Fina expressionlessly had the knights around her back down.
“I’m counting on you, Archduke Halbades.”
(Dammit! Dammit! I wanted to suppress the palace already, greatly regulate the nobles and chip away at the power of these archdukes! If he plays a part, my reforms will…)
From inside the palace corridor came the sound of an enemy attack. It seemed they were attempting to destroy the siege weapon.
But a large glass pane in the corridor shattered, and as rugged knights and soldiers clambered in, a bloodbath was immediately raised among the enemy knights.
A red blood expanding across the corridor, the head of the Diade House, Archduke Diade made an appearance toting his prided war hammer.
When he placed it on the ground, it let off a heavy sound.
“Fina-sama! No need to fear, now that the Diade House is here.”
The hardy Archduke Diade proclaimed his alliance with a grand laugh. In her head, Fina burst into dry laughter.
“Aha, ahahahah… how did they get to the palace so fast!? It should have taken more time! This is strange. There’s something fishy here!”
At first, Fina intended to take a large bit of power from the other nobles, but two of the archduke houses had pledged their cooperation.
She thought they might watch and wait some, what’s more, it should have taken more time just to get their soldiers from their territories to the capital.
Fina’s plan was beginning to twist astray.
“… With great pleasure, I do accept the aid of Archduke Diade.”
When they arrived after all was over, Fina intended to give a sarcastic quip and move to reduce their power. Was he aware of that? Archduke Halbades sang praise of Fina.
“But splendidly done, Fina-sama. I’d almost have to assume you’ve been planning this for ages. For even the people of the capital to take your side.”
She had put Mii and the other demi-humans, along with a great many knights at the bottom of the totem pole up to spreading rumors. After the armies departed, she leaked a rumor a portion of the territories were to be abandoned.
Generally speaking, she made it out that the nobles were bad.
“On the way here, we received some considerably harsh looks from the people. Treating us almost as if we were the enemy. No, I wouldn’t dare to imply it was your doing, Fina-sama.”
With that cynicism from Archduke Diade, Fina internally broke into a cold sweat.
(…. Dammit, I’ll have to revise my plan. But now victory is certain.)
Changing her train of thought, for not Fina prioritized winning against Aileen. But there was just one thing bothering her.
On Fina’s query, the two archdukes made slightly troubled faces. And Archduke Diade opened his mouth.
“Well, it’s that. I never thought I’d be riding a dragon at my age.”
The events of the capital.
They were events that happened a few days after Rudel’s arrival at the battlefield.
“That’s enough. You’ve done enough, brother!”
A battered Rudel was trying to leave the fortress. He had fought for days, and after resting only a few hours, he would set out again. Rinse and repeat.
There weren’t any serious dents in his armor.
But Rudel’s stamina and mana had reached their limit. The one responsible for the fort, his younger brother Chlust had picked up on that.
Rudel looked at Chlust, smiling a bit.
“No can do. This is my job. These are lines my superior told me, I took quite a liking to them. A job is how you live your life. I’ll fight to protect this point to the end.”
He was protecting those that lived in the area, taking refuge in the fort. But they were also those who didn’t abide by the evacuation orders.
“… Brother, you’ve done enough. Take the civilians with you and run.”
Chlust hung his head, he clenched his fist.
Chlust made a face on the verge of tears.
“We’ll hold out somehow or another. So… brother, please run. I already know. There’s no meaning even if I live on. I’m a human who’s already been abandoned. But brother, you’re different.”
Chlust spoke of just how important Rudel’s existence was.
“Your power is necessary to rebuild to Arses House. It’s hopeless for me. The same could be said for the country. Brother, you have to be there. You’re… you’re different from me.”
Rudel looked at Chlust.
“I’m unable to abdicate this point. My orders are to protect this fort to my last breath.”
“I’ll do it. I’ll take care of it… brother, you just have to live.”
There, Rudel returned a gentle smile.
“Chlust, you’ve… changed. You’ve changed so much since I saw you at the academy.”
And Rudel punched Chlust out. Chlust was dumbstruck, as his consciousness faded away, he heard Rudel’s voice.
“… But Chlust. This is my battle.”
When Chlust opened his eyes, he was in the sky.
Sprawled out over a large, white back, when he looked around, he saw his subordinates.
When he hurriedly sprung up, one of his subordinates, a knight looked at him apologetically.
“Captain… I’m sorry. Your brother, he,”
With a sorrowful roar from the dragon, Chlust looked back at the shrinking fort. The black monster army attacking to it, the unresisting fortress was being swallowed whole.
“… Why. Oh god why!!”
Chlust’s cry resounded through the sky.